Green Zones are designed for places like National City that face a deadly combination of public health burdens, environmental degradation, and socioeconomic stressors. We seek to transform these areas into healthy, thriving "Green Zones" by creating proactive, solution-oriented, community and interagency partnerships. Working together, we will target public and private resources and programs into Green Zone areas to support implementation of community-based solutions developed through intensive resident engagement and leadership.

The California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA) (a statewide coalition of six community-based organizations) has launched a California-wide Green Zones Initiative, with sites in Los Angeles, Riverside, Southern San Joaquin Valley, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco. Environmental Health Coalition anchors the San Diego Green Zones effort and has selected Old Town National City as its Green Zone Pilot.

Old Town National City: Now a "Brown Zone"

Decades of poor land-use planning plagues the Old Town neighborhood of National City leaving an unhealthy mix of homes, toxic industries, and warehouses, compounded by a lack of affordable housing and open space. There are over 34 autobody shops in a 90-block area, releasing an estimated 23,000 tons of air toxins. Interstate 5 borders the area and it houses a diesel bus station, both of which contribute to high levels of particulate matter. As a result, residents face a range of "cumulative impacts:"

  • 20% of housing units are overcrowded, with 2 or more people per room.
  • 14% of children have diagnosed asthma, twice the average rate in California
  • 94% are people of color
  • 41% of families live in poverty
  • 75 % of the population are renters.

Mapping Cumulative Impacts with the Environmental Justice Screening Methodology

The Environmental Justice Screening Methodology (EJSM) is a tool to identify what areas face a combination of environmental and socioeconomic stressors, or "cumulative impacts." Rachel Morello-Frosch (UC Berkeley), Manuel Pastor (University of Southern CA), and Jim Sadd (Occidental College) developed it. The EJSM creates and maps a "cumulative impact" score for census tracts. The methodology combines indicators from publicly-available data on:

  • public health and air quality
  • land use data
  • the number of hazardous facilities and sensitive receptors in an area
  • socioeconomic vulnerabilities

The scores range from 3 - 15, with 15 being "highly impacted."

Census Tracks in Old Town National City have an EJSM score of 13 and 14, meaning it is highly impacted.

What does a National City Green Zone look like?

Relocating unhealthy land-uses
In 2010, National City began the amortization/phase out process of incompatible land uses, such as autobody shops, away from residential areas. National City is now determining the order in which the non-conforming land-uses will be amortized, with the process set to start in early 2012.

Create a green industrial park
Businesses relocated under the amortization process would move to an industrial area a few miles west of the residential neighborhood. The park would serve a hub for the paint and auto-body industry and foster green practices.

Affordable housing transit-oriented development
14 acres of land adjacent to the light rail Trolley Stop will be cleaned up and developed into 201 affordable housing units. The site has been chosen by EPA as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities Brownfields Pilots.

Paradise Creek Educational Open Park Space
Community residents restore this salt marsh wetland that flows from San Diego Bay into the city since 1993. The two acre park is the only park serving a community of about 1,600 people and passes by the local elementary school. The first phase of the interpretive park opened in 2007 after 12 years of planning and fundraising.